How to deny the science deniers

Science deniers are nothing new – they’ve been around for thousands of years. Even before “science” as we now know it existed, there were people that challenged rational thought.

This weekend, we participated in the Southeastern Utah March for Science in Moab. The idea of a global march against science denial is pretty exciting and I didn’t want to miss it. So we squeezed it between several canyoneering excursions (more on that soon).

I separate science deniers into two categories. First, there are those that understand and believe science but lie because it’s in their best interest. The classic example of this is a person invested in oil that denies climate change because it will lead to regulations on fossil fuels and cut their profits. Many of our politicians fall into this group.

The second category are those that actually believe that scientific evidence is a hoax. People of the first category love to manipulate people in the second. The second type of science deniers are especially important because we may be able to change their minds.

My opinion is that the root cause of this is a lack of understanding of the scientific method and process. Once you understand how science works, there’s no turning back. The marches give us an opportunity to educate people. In addition to an understanding of the scientific method, here are a few of the things I think people should know:

  1. Science saves lives. Science denial prevents science from saving lives, therefore it costs lives.
  2. Scientists do not make more money when they falsify results. They generally don’t make much money regardless of their results. They have no secret agendas because there’s nothing for them to gain from having agendas. If you live near a university, agricultural extension office, or other research facility with scientists, stop by and ask them about their work and you’ll see how harmless they are. Real life isn’t like the movies.
  3. Science doesn’t claim to have the right answer 100% of the time, but it’s the best we can do with the information we have. It’s a tool and it’s a pretty good one. Substituting baseless claims of conspiracies or wishful thinking in place science is going to fail.
  4. Overwhelming evidence from multiple sources say that man-made climate change caused by burning of fossil fuels is occurring. Unless we do something to limit it, climate change is going to cause huge problems for everyone.

So how do you deny the science deniers? Vote against them! The fact that a global march for science happened shows how accepting the world has become. There were no marches in the 16th century to support Copernicus and the theory of heliocentricism despite widespread opposition. There is more access to information now than ever before (thanks to science), and once someone understands science, they can’t un-understand it. But the deniers are relentless and their votes count, so march on and spread the word!

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